A simple injection is now all it takes to wire up a brain. A diverse team of physicists, neuroscientists and chemists has implanted mouse brains with a rolled-up, silky mesh studded with tiny electronic devices, and shown that it unfurls to spy on and stimulate individual neurons.
The implant has the potential to unravel the workings of the mammalian brain in unprecedented detail. “I think it’s great, a very creative new approach to the problem of recording from large number of neurons in the brain,” says Rafael Yuste, director of the Neurotechnology Center at Columbia University in New York, who was not involved in the work.
The implants have been used to control certain forms of epilepsy for some time. The side effects are known, which is how the possible use for weight control was discovered.
In a bid to increase treatments for the nation’s 79 million obese adults, the Food and Drug Administration has approved U.S. marketing of an implantable device that stimulates weight loss by manipulating key appetite signals passing between the brain and the gut.
The new device is the Maestro Rechargeable System, manufactured by EnteroMedics of St. Paul, Minn. While the FDA has approved four medications for weight loss in the past 2 1/2 years, the Maestro system is the first weight loss device to be approved since 2007.
Over a year, on average, it increases the weight loss by “about 8.5%” compared to an implant which was turned off. And it worked for about half the people… An overwhelming amount of the weight loss was attributable to factors other than the implant.